Sea To Plate on the English Riviera, Torquay, Devon

PUBLISHED: 17:48 22 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:53 20 February 2013

Sea To Plate on the English Riviera, Torquay, Devon

Sea To Plate on the English Riviera, Torquay, Devon

The English Riviera Tourism Co was told - first catch your fish! it was the start of a great fishing trip with Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust in the mackerel rich waters of Torbay & some culinary magic from Simon Hulstone at the Elephant, Torquay

The English Riviera Tourism Co was told - first catch your fish! It was the start of a great fishing trip with Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust in the mackerel rich waters of Torbay & some culinary magic from Simon Hulstone at The Elephant, Torquay.

A lively group met on Haldon Pier in Torquay to experience one of the English Riviera's Geopark Discovery Packages, this one definitely for the fun-loving foodie, (see lots more photos at the bottom of this article).

We all went and bobbed around in the beautiful bay off Torquay on a mackerel fishing boat complete with rods for everyone and some exceptionally helpful crew to show us the ropes. Wildlife rangers from Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust explained the nature of the Geopark and how its amazing geology, awesome history, submarine caves and crystal coves are so important.

Tempting mackerel 'from their watery lair' (thanks to Sky Atlantic TV's current Brixham series entitled Fishtown for this rather lyrical interpretation of the fishing) - we managed to get lines entangled and this led to some excitement that perhaps a nibble was on the line.

The net total was 2 mackerel (I didn't catch one) but amazingly when we got back to The Elephant restaurant on the waterside we found a whole array of different species!

But first coffee and chat amongst our group in the delightful upstairs lounge at The Elephant. Chaps and ladies of all ages conversed animatedly about the trip whilst we looked forward to the next stage in our fishy day.

We were led into the main restaurant where Head Chef Simon Hulstone and his sous chef Craig produced a large number of species that I certainly don't remember catching! In fact the preparation demo was very comprehensive and a 'must' for anyone who is uncertain about how to prepare fish but longs to give it a go..

We were shown John Dory, hugely expensive but delicious, which oddly possesses 3 fillets per side - so handy for those 'odd number' dinner parties we get nowadays.. We learned how to spot the distinctive dot on the side - it's called St Pierre in some countries with the dot representing the place St Peter touched the fish. The reason it's so pricy is that it's an individual fish - doesn't swim in shoals.. A 'hearty fish' serves well with bacon and the dorsal fins are spiky - a defensive fish!

Next fish was Brill - a lovely, large flat fish. We were taught to fillet using the white 'IKEA' lines as a guide. Still quite expensive - goes well with clams. The Elephant likes to serve its fish filleted so the work is done for you - sounds good to me..

Our 3rd fish was Cod - apparently fish and chip shops often serve coley or ling as 'cod' but Simon Hulstone reckons they are still excellent fish so there's no reason why their real names shouldn't be used.

Next was a Plaice - Again we were shown how to fillet and warned that small bones can be left down the middle with this fish but these usually 'cook out'. The plaice has orange spots and is white underneath. As bottom swimmers they are easily caught and are therefore quite cheap. Here we were reminded that a sharp knife is paramount when filleting. We were shown how to take skin off by starting 1/2 mm up and letting the knife do the work. To improve your grip you can dip your fingers into salt.

Simon Hulstone told us that people are afraid of fish and mainly eat cod and salmon. It's Europe that takes our cuttlefish, sardines and mackerel mainly.

Next we came to the Sole family - and were taught the difference between Dover, Lemon and Megrim Sole (also known locally as Torbay Sole). Here is a fish that benefits from being cooked on the bone and simply served with butter.

Mackerel - a fish that young people apparently 'won't touch' according to Simon, whereas the older generation are generally very keen. Mackerel has nutritious meat and can be served raw, marinated or cooked through. Here we were reminded to keep the board clean to avoid slipping (although 'slime means fresh'). Don't overwork the mackerel as it can become mushy - you can V-bone it by cutting a V and pulling out the backbone with tongs. Salting the mackerel will keep it firm. Mackerel has a great flavour as we were later to attest.

Next we saw a Grey Mullet- it's a large fish that looks like a sea bass but is a poor relative. You can see them around estuaries. To tell the difference you must look for a line on the skin that marks the sea bass and which the grey mulllet does not possess.

Lastly my favourite Scallops! - these must be 'dived' and have good, large shells as dredgers damage the seabeds. You can use the coral if you wish or this can be dried in a low oven and used in a pepper mill for a fish seasoning. Scallops could be bought from local divers in the past and these were often brought in from Brixham's Breakwater but H & S rules no longer allow this.


It was a very comprehensive demo and by now we were ready for lunch, a glass of wine and a little socialising. Our first course was mackerel served with sweet woodruff, limes and mirabelle plums and decorated with nasturtiums from Occombe. Absolutely delicious!

Our second course was Pan fried mullet with coco de Pampignon beans which are apparently only available for a few weeks each year. Gorgeous!

We also enjoyed some yummy puddings to round off the meal.

Sea to Plate is one of a series of Geopark Discovery Packages organised by Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, the English Riviera Tourism Company and Simon Hulstone at the award-winning Elephant restaurant on Torquay's harbourside.

To visit Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust website click here

To visit The Elephant website click here

To visit English Riviera Tourism Company click here

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